I do recall once, that Lent spoiled one of my holidays. (During a long weekend in the run up to Easter, I discovered that, thanks to this festival of deprivation, everything in that Catholic region of Spain was shut.) But never has a break been ruined by lint. ‘My only clean jeans, covered in lint!’ I scream to Mrs Smith as I hurriedly pack for our first Smith assignment, already late for the flight to Edinburgh. ‘Li-i-i-nt!’
Well, dear reader, you’ll have to wait for the thrilling denouement to this fluff-related reference as I prioritise my musings on our stay at this swish, sexy new hotel. Open since June 2009, this boutique bolt hole is the baby of designer Rosita Missoni. I could at this stage, bluff heroically about her legendary range of striking soft furnishings and knitwear, but as a 37-year-old heterosexual man from Lancashire I will have to confess to knowing, what experts might call ‘sod all’ about her.
Still, as the northerners say, I do know what I like. As we sashay beyond the imposing sandstone edifice into the lobby (yes, I can sashay when the occasion requires it), we experience our first taste of the Missoni mission statement: namely imposing stripes (her signature, Mrs Smith informs me rolling her eyes), bold blacks and whites, retro-kitsch lighting and an abundance of chain-curtain drapes. Indeed, reception itself, with its twin backlit islands, eschews the traditional hotel lobby for what looks to me like the set of a Simon Cowell ‘talent’ spectacle. Luckily, the lady on reception possesses none of Cowell’s slappability. On the contrary, this charming professional gives us our first taste of what was to become a recurring motif of the weekend: exemplary and attentive service.
As we ascend the colour-coded floors to our ‘superior’ room, I can, conversely, feel my face blanch. My wife is what hoteliers the world over would politely describe, as a ‘stickler’. A fastidious detail-disciplinarian who comes down hard and heavy on any imperfections. Will our room be up to her vertiginous standards?
Mercifully, first impressions are good. The trademark Missoni primary-and-pastels palette and zig-zaggy lines run throughout, and the space available is exaggerated by floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and an equally massive window (albeit hermetically sealed) overlooking the dramatic history-marinated centre of Edinburgh, right across to Arthur’s Seat.
All cons are of course mod– there’s a Bang and Olufsen TV console if you’ll pardon the name-drop, a coffeemaker (you can take the hotel out of Italy…), and a shower room replete with specially-concoted Smith smellies. It seems my spidey-senses tingled for good reason, though, as some imperfections are apparent. Our superior room is not what you’d call spacious, and there’s no bath. Surely a two-hour soak in sumptuous salts is mandatory on a dirty weekend? When Mrs Smith spots how parsimonious they’ve been with shelves for her toiletries, she collapses on the bed, dramatically stricken, in much the same way as I imagine Queen Victoria did upon hearing the news of her dear Albert’s demise. At least the bed’s King rather than Queen Victoria size, and cushions the blow fantastically well. (If one is willing to fork out nearer £400, though, one can secure a suitably regal suite replete with a sizeable bath, and an even more stunning view.) I console her with news that we have a booking at the Michelin-bothering Tom Kitchin’s restaurant on Commercial Quay in Leith. If the meal passes muster, and Missoni’s top launderers rid my kecks of the dreaded lint, this could be a night to remember.
Nitpicking shelved, we head out for our waterside meal at The Kitchin, where Italian high fashion is supplanted by highland haute cuisine. Here at Kitchin the only must-haves this season are the razorfish from Arisaig, scallops from Orkney, langoustine from Anstruther and roe deer from Humbie. Fully fed we’re happy to return from our pleasant but pricey feast to hit the hotel’s own buzzing space for a nightcap. What could on first inspection have been accused of being a little self-conscious, has transformed into a warm and inviting space, brimming with partiers across the demographic divide. Where else but on a jury would you see hip, hot young professionals standing shoulder-to-shoulder with glam grans and golfers? The house wines are very tipplable, pints of Peroni most reasonable, and Mrs Smith is smitten with the bubbly on tap. Draught prosecco – most ingenious.
One foot outside of this Italian abode and you’re on the Royal Mile, the cobbled high street which runs from Edinburgh down to Holyrood Abbey. After a daytime whirl around the famed sights of this Athens of the North, we return to our very own patch of Milan in Scotland. We sidestep tartan shops and tourist-aimed offers of haggis for the irresistible Italian fare of in-house eatery, La Cucina. The layout of this chic restaurant, as you’d expect, is pure Missoni – glossy, white and see and be seeny – though not conventionally romantic. Again, service is snappy and personable, and the young sommelier steers us charmingly through their extensive all-Italian list to the perfect Valpolicella. (If you really want all the details, my scallop starter and saddle of lamb is so tasty I’m confident it would challenge the resolve of even the staunchest vegan. The tiramisu, mind, is not so much Ferrari as it is Fiat.)
Afterwards in the bar, our ‘let’s just split a bottle of wine’ resolve dissolves into a session far more Scottish than Milanese, and we realise we’ve been utterly seduced by this handsome Italian. In my sozzled state I begin to come over all Jeremy Clarkson again. ‘The hotel is a bit like an Alfa Romeo Spider,’ I inform Mrs Smith. ‘Not exactly roomy, but fit to burst with personality. For me, though, the hotel's single greatest achievement is not the effortless confluence of Italian and Caledonian influences, nor its sense of playful style. It’s the sheer lintlessness of my jeans.